Students Triumph at National Collegiate Drone Racing Championship

Embry-Riddle dominated the 2nd annual Collegiate Drone Racing Championship at Purdue University. From left to right are Patrick White, Jay Patel, Michael Saalwaecheter and Patric Hruswicki from the Daytona Beach Campus and Donald Heon, James Wigton and Bjorn Vasenden​ from the Prescott Campus.

Embry-Riddle students dominated the recent 2nd annual Collegiate Drone Racing Championship at Purdue University, with the Daytona Beach team finishing first and the team from Prescott taking third against teams from 20 universities across the country.

The racing event involved small quadcopters operated by remote control. About 70 pilots attended the event that took place April 14 on the Purdue University campus in Indiana. Through cameras mounted on the drones, live video is transmitted to the pilots’ video googles. The drones, which are built by the students, fly up to 80 miles an hour through a course, zipping and flipping around flags and gates.

The Daytona Beach team included four students and the Prescott team had three students.

In addition to team results, Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach students placed first, second and third. Michael Saalwaechter won the individual competition; Jay B. Patel took second; Patrick White was third and Patric Hruswicki 12th.  The Daytona Beach team is part of the Radio Control Airplane Club on campus.

“Racing drones never ceases to get my heart pumping and my adrenaline flowing. It's a tightly knit balance of control, focus, pushing your own limits and performing on the spot,” said Saalwaechter, who is studying UAS operations.

Patel, an aerospace engineering major, said the race consisted of three to eight drones flying head-to-head at any given time through as many laps of the course as possible in a 2-minute time frame.

From the Prescott Campus, James Wigton placed ninth; Bjorn Vasenden placed 16th and Donald Heon placed 30th. The Prescott team is part of the UAS Club on campus.

“The race had one of the best courses I have ever flown and the atmosphere of participating with other collegiate pilots is unparalleled,” said Wigton, an aerospace engineering major. “Everyone was so willing to help anyone else out with any issues that happened.”